On April 4th, 2022, the Kansas City Jayhawks defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels in a 72-69 victory to become the men’s college basketball national champions. The win was memorable for more than a few reasons.
First, the Jayhawks handled a riveting comeback to win. At halftime, the Jayhawks trailed the Tar Heels 40-25; for many, the game looked almost over. However, the Jayhawks overcame the largest points deficit to win the national championship since 1958.
Second, the Jayhawks won their second title under Bill Self. The head coach also led the team to a national victory back in 2008. For Self fans, of which there are many, the 2021-22 season has solidified his place as one of college basketball’s greatest coaches—and many are eyeing him for another run next year.
But there’s one challenge that the Jayhawks, along with every other team, will face in the off-season: losing veteran talent to the NBA Draft. This year, the Draft is scheduled for June 23, and three of KU’s top players have already declared. As national champions, these three draft prospects could become top players in the coming years. In fact, NBA selections from experts don’t skip over incoming talents—even if they’re in their rookie year. Rookie players like Evan Mobley (Cavaliers) and Scottie Barnes (Raptors) have seen coverage from analysts this year, despite it being their first in the big leagues. Looking forward, will KU’s three draftees see similar attention?
Kansas City local Ochai Agbaji was undoubtedly the team’s breakout star this yer. Few were surprised when he took home the Big 12 Player of the Year award and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player for leading the Jayhawks to their victory over the Wildcats.
Most notably, Agbaji sank 29 points in an 87-74 win against Michigan State, then earned another career-high of 37 points in a 94-91 win against Texas Tech. As a 6’5″ scoring machine that’s posted consistent growth with KU, Agbaji’s current stats hint that he’ll be a prime target in the Draft.
Heading toward June 23, he’ll be targeted for his ability to produce—but there’s still limited insight into which teams will be eyeing up the Jayhawks’ biggest export. Some rumors hint that the Knicks are interested in drafting Agbaji, as the team is on the hunt for a consistent scorer. With an accuracy rating of 40.7% from deep, Agbaji is a well-rounded offensive competitor.
At 6’10″ and with a strong offensive and defensive presence, David McCormack has excelled in his added year in the NCAA. Though originally slated to graduate last year, McCormack took advantage of the NCAA’s extension. In addition to nabbing the championship, McCormack was also named the 2022 Big 12 Men’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
During his time with the Jayhawks, he averaged 10.6 points and 7 rebounds per game. However, McCormack is known for performing under pressure. During the Final Four, these averages jumped to 20 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. His performance was critical in leading the Jayhawks to their record comeback against the Tar Heels. At this time, there are no hints as to which team McCormack may join at the end of June.
Though it’s still unclear if Christian Braun will declare officially for the Draft or decline on June 1, the shooting guard has etched his name into Big 12 Conference history. In fact, he’s been a strong player since his freshman year, when he earned a Big 12 All-Freshman Team nod.
In the last year, Braun’s game has improved immensely. In the Final Four match against the Wildcats, Braun became the 65th Jayhawk to hit 1,000 points. In the final against the Tar Heels, Braun posted 12 points and 12 rebounds. He also stepped up to defend a three-point attempt from Caleb Love in the game’s final seconds, sealing the Jayhawks’ historic win